YoaHTs – Thing #71 – “Summers on the Beach”

I have a love/hate relationship with fireworks. I love the color, the noise, the spectacle of fireworks. But every year, I get more and more annoyed the morning of July 5th when I see the ridiculous mess left behind by amateur pyrotechnicians. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is “Summers on the Beach” in Florida. 

I wonder, as I stroll down the long stretch that is Central Florida’s gulf beaches, why people come to the beach year after year. I think about why I enjoy it, and then I look around at the miles and miles dotted by tents and umbrellas and think, no, it’s not the same

Somewhere in my DNA is a chain of chromosomes that are part sea water. According to ancestry.com my genome circles the Mediterranean, island hopping from Sicily to Egypt to Menorca in Spain. I find peace in the waves crashing. I am a human solar panel, recharging my psyche in the sun. To me, the beach has a soul, as do all of Earth’s great designs. 

So, imagine how utterly disgusted I am when, the morning after we celebrate how amazing our country is, I see how little its citizens care about their responsibility to her shores. I cannot fathom why, if you enjoy coming to the beach, you don’t feel compelled to keep it clean and safe. (See Figure 1)

Post-fireworks debris on Reddington Beach

Plastic toys, for example, become brittle over time and break into brightly-colored, sharp shards which the birds mistake for food. Necropsies on birds reveal that plastics fill their bellies, causing the birds to starve. Cigarette butts (my favorite pet peeve) are so numerous, that is gives the appearance that the beach is a giant ashtray. I pick up hundreds of them in a week, and it’s worse every year. Styrofoam from cheap coolers break into a million tiny pieces, which look a great deal like shells. My favorite this morning was a squeezed Bud Light cap which was so sharp, that it would do major damage to soft tissue. (See image 2)

Bud Light bottle cap found on Reddington Beach

The beaches here are highly commercialized, with miles and miles of hotels, and little to no flora and fauna remains. It has been replaced by thousands of people with seemingly little regard for the damage they do. Perhaps it’s ignorance. Maybe they don’t realize how, when those water balloons explode, little tiny blue pieces of latex end up in the sand where turtles and birds used to nest. Or maybe they think that one cigarette butt won’t hurt, ignoring the fact that it’s one of thousands buried by others. 

I hate to be THAT person. I prefer to be cheerful, and complimentary. But the human infection has reached a zenith and fixing it wouldn’t take much. In fact, if every person who visited just took five square feet and scanned the sand for plastic, cigarette butts, and styrofoam, we could easily keep it clean. In fact, get your kids involved. They love to hunt for things. There are organizations that help. IS Foundation (Ian Somerhalder of Vampire Diaries) has leveraged social media to keep kids interested in being good stewards. Just five minutes and five yards. I promise, it won’t hurt, and imagine that five minutes can do. 

Year of a Hundred Things – “Thing” #86, “Island Girl”

Jumping the Waves

My sister sent her DNA into Ancestry.com back in December. I was only slightly surprised at the results since I’d been researching our family history for a decade. The report listed ethnicities of which I was already aware and gave percentages that I thought coincided exactly with our origins.

What I found amusing about the report was that it illuminated a fact that had escaped me while listing countries of origin for my ancestors. Nearly ALL of our DNA came from around the Mediterranean and a large majority came from islands, including Sicily, The Canaries and Menorca. Suddenly, I had an explanation for my need to be near water all the time and my ability to tan in the shade.

It makes perfect sense now that I sleep better on or near water than I do anywhere else. Even a simple water feature will do it. But nothing has more pull for me than the beach, which is also the only place on Earth that I awake at the crack of dawn. And it’s not just me. It’s my whole family and all my friends whose families had similar migrations to sunny Florida. Every summer of our lives has been marked with a stay at one of the gulf coast beaches.

There are so many familiar places and traditions that have been borne of these summer days, and now I get to share them with my own child. So, please excuse me now, while I go pack for another relaxing weekend on the water.

Year of a Hundred Things – “Thing” #90 – Afternoon Rains

Each corner of the globe has its own unique weather phenomenon. Florida has a few, the results of its placement in the middle of two major bodies of water. Anyone who has lived here for a few years will have realized that, beginning in about mid-Spring, the afternoon rains begin and with them comes a host of benefits, some even comical. Most of the inland residents of the Tampa Bay area converge on the coastal beaches for at least a few days every summer. It’s a long-standing tradition, documented by boxes and boxes full of images from as far back as the old Brownie days. For the luckier and perhaps more well-to-do among us, there might even be some Super 8 reels of skinny, sun-kissed boys and girls playing cork ball and building sand castles while sand pines, rather than high rises, still lined Gulf Boulevard.

You see, there are things about Florida summers that we know are utterly predictable, the afternoon rains being the most welcomed for us. As a public service, here is a list of things that you should understand about Florida summers, especially on the Gulf coast:

Continue reading